At first glance, Kindle Unlimited seems like a good deal for those of us book dragons who consume many ebooks a month. For $13 a month or thereabouts, you can access a huge library and read as many books as you want. It’s great as a subscription service because many authors place their books in it and if you don’t like the book then you haven’t wasted a great deal of money trying it out and can just borrow the next one.
Actually to be honest I’m not sure if Amazon forces self-publishers to make their books exclusively available in Kindle Unlimited for the first 3 months. Is this a thing? I feel like this might be a thing.
So. Good for readers.
Bad for authors.
And this is why.
Recently I noticed Amazon was underestimating the page count of indie books published on KU.
These page counts seemed small.
Please note that the lower the word count per page, the more that author gets paid, because the more pages those fewer words take up, and authors are paid per page in KU.
Lower word count per page is a good thing.
I did some research with books where I could verify the word counts, and I compared it to the Kindle version which gives the page count.
It’s commonly accepted that one page = 250 words. That’s the standard industry norm for a double spaced A4 page. For a single-spaced A4 page, the standard word count is 500 words. Obviously paperback books are not A4 sized, and industry norms say that the word count for paperback novels is generally 250-300 words per page.
This means that:
- A 100 page book = 25,000 words.
- A 150 page books = 37,500 words.
- A 200 page book = 55,000 words.
- A 400 page book = 100,000 words.
However, according to my calculations, Amazon thinks that 1 page more often equals more than 250 words, and sometimes even well above 350 words per page.
This underestimation of pages reduces a 55k word book from 200 pages to 142 pages.
Now why would this be? What possible reason could Amazon have to underestimate word and page count?
Amazon is guessing at page counts, and in some cases is being much more generous.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is 345 pages on Kindle. At 76,944 words, that’s 223 words per page.
I chose a random novella I knew was 25K words. Amazon says its word count is only 96 pages. If this book was 75K like Harry Potter, so three times longer, according to my calculations Amazon would only assess its page length as 288 pages. 75k is a standard novel length for fiction, and those book are around 300-350 pages when they’re published. With Amazon underestimating pages count, that author is only being paid 260 words per page, not 223. That means this author is being paid less for the same word count.
Please remember that the lower the word count per page, the more the author gets paid, assuming the reader reads the entire book.
Example 3: The Boss by Abigail Barnette/Jenny Trout
Example 4: Guarded by the Hybrid by Evangeline Anderson
Example 5: The Billionaire’s Stepbrother by Emma Lea
When you’re paid per page instead of per word, automatically and arbitrarily deciding some books get more words on the page and some get less means authors are literally not getting paid for providing books of the same length.
It means authors are writing longer books just for an arbitrary higher page count they can’t even control. Longer books takes the author more time to write and doesn’t necessarily make it a better book, and is more expensive for them with editing prior to publishing (freelance editors charge per word not per page, so you can’t play with margins and fonts like you did when submitting a 3 page high school essay but you only really have 2.5 pages worth of essay.).
And, this isn’t even taking into account that many indie authors try to squeeze as many words onto a page as they can to reduce paperback costs. So their page counts are lower, but their word counts are higher.
The worst part of all is that the higher the word count, the larger the ebook file.
Amazon charges a file delivery fee to the author for larger ebooks files. That means that for authors expanding their books to make it look like their novels are worth reading (to those ‘I don’t read books shorter than 400 pages’ snobs), the authors are making even less money for providing a longer book.
(Only reading novels over 400 pages is a whooooooole other thing I might write about one day, and relying on Amazon to accurately count the page numbers doesn’t work if 100K novels – which is LONGER than industry standards – doesn’t even reach 400 pages.)
In comparison, other self-publishing platforms do not charge authors for larger file sizes.